By John A. Dodds
We start with the question: what is a road? This is similar to the confounding question of what is a trail, but we’ll leave that one for another time. A road can generally be identified by the word “road” when someone describes it. Examples include a jeep road, a fire road, a dirt road, a gravel road, etc. I’m not talking about those kinds of roads. I’m talking about a highway, which means a “paved” road. There are very few opportunities to run 100 miles all on paved roads. The last time for me was Badwater (135 miles) in July 2005. The Mother Road 100 in Oklahoma would be another not-to-miss opportunity. As Willie Nelson sang:
the road again
Like a band of gypsies we go down the highway
Why? The main allure of the Mother Road 100 was that it was to take place in Oklahoma. I had gone to a year of high school in Oklahoma, and I like doing runs in places where I have lived before. The other interesting feature of the race was that not only was it to be run on a highway but also on a particular highway: Route 66. Before I moved to Oklahoma, I lived in England and there was this new group (I think it was the Rolling Stones or something like that) who sang a song about getting their kicks on Route 66. Actually, this song was written in 1946 and first recorded by Nat King Cole. The last time I was on Route 66 was when we traveled to the Grand Canyon for the R2R2R in 2004. Anyway, I thought it would be kind of neat to run on Route 66. One other thing: you should watch the movie Cars because it features Route 66.
So why is this race called “Mother Road”? Because that is the popular name for Route 66 after John Steinbeck called it that in Grapes of Wrath.
Gypsies. I know that there may be many of you who not only eschew road running but castigate those who run roads. That’s why I thought I’d mention that I wasn’t the only one from the VHTRC who ran this race. Let me tell you about some of the other VHTRC “gypsies.” First is Jaret who said this race goes against everything he believes in. Not only that, but when I saw him running in the race he was actually smiling and enjoying it. You can even see him smiling in the race photos. Then there’s Keith Dunn who, I hate to admit this, is just darn cheap. There used to be a television show called “Route 66” about two guys who apparently had nothing better to do than drive around in a Corvette on Route 66. So, I called Keith up and told him that I found a two-tone blue 1962 Corvette for $34,000 that he could buy so we could drive to Oklahoma. He refused. I even offered to let him drive from time to time, but he still refused to buy it. Now, is that being cheap or what? Then there’s the perennial trail runner from Massachusetts – Jeff Washburn. Talk about a fish out of water. He’s the one who is always trying to get us to come up there and run on trails in some stupid forest. Allen Zwart from DC also showed up (unfortunately, they misplaced the drop bag with his lights in it; the one-LED light that someone loaned him wasn’t quite enough).
Since that paragraph was getting a little long, I thought I’d start another one. Carl Camp from Delaware was there, too. But what you may not know is that Carl is practically an Okie by heritage. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma and got a Ph.D in chemical engineering from the University of Tulsa. Not only that, his wife is from Tulsa. Although he probably won’t admit it, I bet he’s a big rodeo fan and was probably bustin’ broncs himself to get spending money in college. And then there’s John Shepard who finished fifth – not bad for a trail runner. In his favor, he did wear his blue VHTRC shirt (as did Jaret). As you can see, I was in pretty good trail running company.
Was I Prepared? In a word, “No.” I developed an Achilles problem last May and stopped running in mid-June. Besides not running, I bought a special brace, a night splint, took four weeks of physical therapy, and started seeing a chiropractor. But I didn’t just sit around and do nothing. I used this opportunity to gain about 20 pounds. So, with time running out, I started my long runs about five weeks before the race: 10 miles in early October, 20 miles the next weekend, and Andiamo (45 miles) the next weekend. Two weeks later, I ran the Marine Corps Marathon. This wasn’t your recommended training regimen. I was running very, very slowly, but the Achilles was holding up. Several days after the marathon, however, I pulled a calf muscle pretty badly in a routine run – I couldn’t run anymore and had to walk three miles back to my van. It was pretty serious, and I decided that I wouldn’t run again until the day of Mother Road, which was nine days away.
The Day Before. I arrived in Oklahoma City on Thursday just before midnight (it was a balmy 70 degrees, but the weather definitely got cooler by the next day), so Friday was a free day. I started the day off with shopping at Shepler’s, the famous western store (how lucky was I to have that right next to my motel?). I hadn’t been to a Shepler’s since I was in Wichita for the Heartland 100 last year. Next was a trip to my old high school (Midwest City Bombers) and then a visit to the house we lived in. Then I spent several hours walking around the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, which is an excellent museum. It’s got a gun collection that rivals that of the Knipling clan. They say you shouldn’t do a lot of walking the day before a race, but I think that only applies to marathons. The sculpture at the right is the famous “End of the Trail” which reminds me of some of my finishes, except without the horse.
The Race. Being undertrained, overweight, and injured, I wasn’t exactly sure I should be running this race. But I told myself: “It’s only a hundred miles.” Frankly, I was not deceived by this “logic.” My plan was to run as slow as I had been running the previous month. My Achilles was fine, but my calf started hurting at mile 3. I kept a slow pace, and that pace seemed to stretch out my calf so by mile 10, the pain had gone away. Then it was just a matter of relentless forward progress. The course was all runnable, it was well marked (except for one turn), and there was a lot of traffic. There were many times when I was running when I thought that we shouldn’t really be running on this road, especially when a tractor trailer would go by at 60 miles an hour only three feet away. It got much colder at night than I had expected, and to put it simply, I froze. At mile 78, I had to ask a volunteer to open my container of SUCCEED tablets since my fingers weren’t working. It got worse on the way to the mile 84 aid station. When I got there, I had to ask a volunteer to take off my fanny pack since I couldn’t unfasten the buckle. Fortunately, the two volunteers had their cars running with the heat on, and I spent almost 40 minutes in one of them until I thawed (I was then able to untie my shoes). I’m not sure what the temperature was, but judging by the frost on the ground, it had to be below freezing. Fortunately, the wind was not a factor at any time during the race, and it did not rain.
I thought the race was very well organized. It’s put on by the same people who put on the Oklahoma City marathon. Since I was using Sustained Energy and Perpetuem, I wasn’t all that concerned with the aid stations. However, I did notice that the fare could have been better at some of them. One problem was that the last drop bag location was at mile 70. This meant that whatever wardrobe selection you made then would follow you to the finish. That’s part of the reason I didn’t change into heavier tights and shirts at mile 70 because I thought I would be overdressed later on in the race. Little did I know that it would get colder than I had expected. The finish was at a fast food restaurant called Carl’s Jr., and we could have anything we wanted on the menu for free.
Stuff. If you like stuff, you would have liked this race. To name a few items we got: a nice belt buckle, finished chunk of old Route 66, a monogrammed bag, reflective vest by Fuel Belt, cotton t-shirt, DirtyGirl gaiters, Ultimate Fast Draw bottle, and a technical finisher’s shirt (to be mailed to us). Since I signed up last year, my entry fee was $66. With all this stuff plus free food at the end – not to mention the costs of putting on the race itself – this race was quite the bargain.
Next time. There isn’t going to be a next time since this is a once-only event. This run was to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the commissioning of Route 66. But guess what? Next year is Oklahoma’s centennial, and the race organizers are mulling over the possibility of putting on a 100-mile run that will be an out-and-back from Oklahoma City to Guthrie, the first capital of Oklahoma. Maybe some of you gypsies out there will sign up for it. Let me know how you do.